So who’d you have as aides if you were US President?

I was having a conversation with my old political buddy Andrew Blackburn the other day and we talked of who we would have in our team if we were the US President. It was re-watching the 1st season of The West Wing which inspired this conversation. It must be one of the best series that I’ve seen on the TV. So anyway here goes with my personal list of West Wing characters and some personal additional aides.

Those in brackets are the actors playing the parts in Season 1:-

The President (Martin Sheen) – Me of course! – Delusions of grandeur of it seems:-)

Vice President (Tim Matheson) – Phil Holden – needed to pull in the right of centre vote. All but a Republican he’s never the less far from being a right-wing nut-job. Has a fine analytical mind with which I often don’t agree but is useful in balancing my Social Liberal ‘leftie’ outlook.

Chief of Staff – Leo McGarry (John Spencer) – Andrew Blackburn – Always sees the wider picture, is very loyal and will tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Deputy Chief of Staff – Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) – David Rimmer – the most polite and successful political hit-man I ever knew – ‘Leave it to me boss, you won’t hear of it again’ and I didn’t.

Communications Director – Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) – David Tattersall – Turns government-speak into straightforward language voters can easily grasp.

Deputy Communications Director – Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) – Steph Prewett – The best at seeing required end results and making sure they’re achieved. As with David Rimmer, the buried bodies are never seen again.

Press Secretary – (CJ Cregg (Allison Jamney) – Layla Moran – Progressive, Liberal, naturally outgoing and likeable, has the common touch which few in politics have. She’s a natural to talk for my White House on any matter of public importance. Good to have someone of Palestinian descent in high office too.

Personal Aide to the President – Charlie Young (Dule Hill) – A young Charles Walker – Cheeky, full of fun, loyal and generous. A lifetime of wide experiences to fall back on make him an essential team member.

Secretary – Mrs Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) – Christine Polanski – 100% reliable gets rid of time wasters, knows when I need support and can make me laugh when stress levels are high.

Special advisors not a part of the West Wing –

Special Advisors Defence & Foreign Policy – Paddy Ashdown, Tom Tugendhat, Ming Campbell, Robin Cook

Special Advisor – Social Policies, housing & planning – Roy Connell

Special Advisor – Education and crime – Geoff Howe

Special Advisor – Environment and climate change – Caroline Lucas

Special Advisor – The arts, culture, broadcasting and media – Andrew Beattie

Special Advisor – Liberty, freedom, charities, poverty – Iain Brodie Browne

Special Advisors – without portfolios – Peter Gibson, Barry Smith, Dave Martin, Lord Peter Smith, Ken Clarke,

Special advisor – Transportation – Amtrak Joe

Bootle job losses

Bootle Crest. This version is fixed to the wall of the Council Chamber in Bootle Town Hall.

I spent my whole working life in Bootle as a civil servant, or more precisely as a PCS trade union officer looking after the interests of civil servants, so to see significant job losses in the town in both the public and private sectors troubles me.

It’s a subject I’ve blogged about previously on the back of the announcement of the loss of civil service jobs in Bootle. Here’s a link back to my most relevant posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/11/05/bootle-yet-more-civil-service-jobs-to-be-withdrawn/

And now things on the Santander front look more than a little gloomy too as the long-promised redevelopment of the former GIRO building in Netherton has been cancelled. The Liverpool Echo has an article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/huge-new-75m-santander-bootle-20252021

As I’ve said time and time again, public sector and in particular civil service jobs were brought into Bootle in the 1960s and 1970s to boost job opportunities in a town that was struggling with the demise of the docks and associated industries. To now remove those civil service jobs elsewhere (in HMRC’s case into central Liverpool) makes no sense to me at all. Those jobs and those at Santander will have had a positive effect on the local economy, indeed I’ve often thought that without the thousands of civil servants in Bootle’s mini-Whitehall the Strand Shopping Centre would have encountered serious trading problems many years ago.

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

Removing public sector jobs from Bootle can only make regenerating the town a much bigger job and the investment in jobs that would have flowed from the Santander project makes that tough job even tougher.

As an aside, I also wonder how big an influence the Liverpool City Region is on the sucking of jobs into central Liverpool. My fear is that Liverpool’s gains are at the expense of its surrounding towns…….

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

Peter Taylor RIP

Peter Taylor worked for Maghull Town Council* for many years firstly as a maintenance engineer and then as head of its parks and gardens maintenance arm.

He was one of those people full of innovative engineering ideas that could come up with solutions to many problems but he was modest of nature and did not seek praise or recognition; a true behind the scenes man. However, give him some steel or wood and the appropriate tools and he could make virtually anything and he’d most likely enjoy every minute of the work too.

Here are a couple of postings of mine from quite a while back where Peter’s team at the Town Council got a positive mention:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2012/12/31/maghulls-meadows-leisure-centre-car-park/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/12/28/maghull-grafiti-covered-boundary-sign-cleaned-up/

And here’s some photos of Peter’s handiwork:-

Entrance to Dodds Park Maghull

Entrance to Mersey Avenue Park Maghull

Entrance to Balls Wood Park Maghull

Indeed, anywhere across Maghull’s 13 parks, gardens and play areas where you see blue metal fencing there’s a good chance that Peter Taylor made it. Sadly some of the work he did is very much in need of a rub down and a coat of paint or the rust will see the fencing off. Let’s hope that this is tackled soon.

I only found out about Peter’s passing yesterday from my old friend Roy Connell who had bumped into one of Peter’s neighbours who lived in Scarisbrick a couple of doors away from him. It seems Peter had died earlier this year, aged 64, from heart problems. Coincidentally, Roy was himself a former Maghull Town Councillor and as Chair of the Council’s then Personnel Committee back in the day he was a part of the panel which interviewed and appointed Peter. Roy, a lifelong trade unionist like myself, has often commented along the lines of it was probably the best appointment to a job he ever made. He shares this view of Peter with fellow former councillor Andrew Blackburn.

I liked Peter and recall how his eyes would light up when a technical problem was presented to him; he was a really nice helpful chap. He may not have ever lived in Maghull but the work he did across all of its parks and gardens, together with his team of course, is a tribute to him.

RIP Peter Taylor

My thanks to Les French for supplying the photo of Peter

* Peter ceased to work for the Town Council around 5 years ago

Lydiate – RIP John Kitson

I had a phone call yesterday from my good friend and former Maghull Councillor Roy Connell to tell me that his friend of many years John Kitson had died. I met John just the once myself and the link below outlines the circumstances:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/13/lydiate-meeting-a-lydiate-parish-councillor-from-the-1960s/

I don’t think that anyone involved in Lydiate Parish Council from the 1980’s onwards recalls John due to him being a councillor back in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s but never the less I feel it important to acknowledge his work for the community even though it was a long time ago.

If you’ve clicked on the link you’ll now know that Roy and John were connected with the trade union movement, a movement close to my heart too.

If anyone has any memories of John in his Parish Councillor role I’d love to hear them……

RIP John Kitson

Lidos & outdoor swimming baths make you shiver

Outdoor bathing at Ainsdale from a display at Ainsdale Discovery Centre.

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseysides-lost-lidos-whats-today-18190452

This article will bring back memories for many a Merseysider and indeed visitors to the once popular lidos around the coast of what are now Sefton and Wirral Boroughs. My dear old friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker, sadly no longer with us, would often talk of his exploits around New Brighton Baths in the late 1940’s.

My own recollection of outdoor an swimming pool and how cold they were is from Prestatyn Holiday Camp in the late 1960’s.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Click on the photo to enlarge it